Nwenka mask

Bobo peoples
20th century
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General Description

The Nwenka mask is said to date from the time of creation, when Wuro, the Creator God, molded the world from moist clay and made the first humans. Wuro retreated from the world but left his three sons behind to help mankind. Nwenka embodies the spirit of Dwo, one of Wuro's sons, and is a medium of communication with Wuro. The blacksmith, one of the first human beings, was made its keeper and authorized to carve it and other masks out of wood.

At harvest and funeral celebrations, Nwenke dancers (sing. Nwenka) wear thick costumes of hemp and execute an athletic spinning dance that serves as a metaphor for the creation of the world.

The Nwenka mask is accompanied by the Nyaga mask, which represents a large antelope with enormous backward curving horns. Combed hibiscus fibers were lashed to the mask, which was worn with a fiber costume.

Excerpt from

Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, Arts of Africa, 2015.